Why do women request caesarean section in a normal, healthy first pregnancy?

Jennifer Fenwick, Lynne Staff, Jenny Gamble, Debra K. Creedy, Sara Bayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Background and context: a growing number of childbearing women are reported to prefer a caesarean section in the absence of a medical reason. Qualitative research describing factors influencing this preference in pregnant women is lacking. Objective: to describe Australian women's request for caesarean section in the absence of medical indicators in their first pregnancy. Design: advertisements were placed in local newspapers inviting women to participate in a telephone interview exploring women's experience of caesarean section. Thematic analysis was used to analyse data. Setting: two states of Australia: Queensland and Western Australia. Participants: a community sample of women (n=210) responded to the advertisements. This paper presents the findings elicited from interviews conducted with 14 women who requested a caesarean section during their first pregnancy in the absence of a known medical indication. Findings: childbirth fear, issues of control and safety, and a devaluing of the female body and birth process were the main themes underpinning women's requests for a non-medically-indicated caesarean section. Women perceived that medical discourses supported and reinforced their decision as a 'safe' and 'responsible' choice. Key conclusions and recommendations for practice: these findings assist women and health professionals to better understand how childbirth can be constructed as a fearful event. In light of the evidence about the risks associated with surgical birth, health-care professionals need to explore these perceptions with women and develop strategies to promote women's confidence and competence in their ability to give birth naturally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-400
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Early online date30 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


This investigation was funded by Griffith University, QLD.


  • Childbirth
  • Caesarean section
  • Decision making
  • Request

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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